Gretna fire

Firefighters work at the site of a fire that heavily damaged the home of ex-Husker Aaron Graham northwest of Gretna.

The wife and 14-year-old son of former Nebraska football player Aaron Graham were leaving the garage of their Gretna-area home Wednesday morning when the basement exploded.

The family of six had been evacuating the house, scooping up whatever valuables were close at hand. They had been awakened by a lightning strike and smelled, then saw, smoke.

“They were grabbing the last couple of items we had brought up, and downstairs exploded and blew the windows out of the basement,” Aaron Graham said Wednesday night. “At that point we were just (hurrying) to get as far away from the house as we could.”

A fire, apparently caused by lightning, destroyed the Graham home, 7502 S. 240th St. The family of six escaped without much more than what they were wearing. Fire crews were dispatched at about 7:15 a.m.

Graham is a former Husker first-team All-American center and NFL player.

No injuries were reported. The Gretna Volunteer Fire Department and other area firefighters responded.

Graham said most of his family was awakened by the lightning strike at about 5 a.m., which sounded like an “atomic bomb.”

There was a smell of plastic burning. They checked the electronics. They checked the basement at least twice for fire but couldn’t find anything. When smoke started coming up from under the kitchen sink, Graham told his wife, Kim, to call 911.

The family grabbed whatever valuables were near — phones, wallets, iPads, not much else — and got out. Kim and son Baylen were the last out of the garage. Then the basement blew.

“I’m so thankful we didn’t try to go back in to get more stuff, because the explosion downstairs could have been even more devastating,” Graham said.

A gofundme webpage to help the Grahams had raised more than $9,000 for the family by Wednesday night.

“After getting calls at the office from so many people asking how they could help, we decided to set up a gofundme account to provide them with some essentials they need right away,” said Scott Pawloski, who works for Graham at National Land Realty. “No amount is too small; anything you can donate will help and is greatly appreciated.”

The family is staying in the home of friends in Gretna.

“We are going to stay in the Gretna community,” Graham said. “We’re rooted here. The children go to school here. … We couldn’t be more thankful for everyone in our town.”

“Right now we are just going to try to find some time to rest tonight and try to analyze things tomorrow,” he said. “It’s just an awful lot to consume in one day.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1272, kevin.cole@owh.com; 402-444-1310, andrew.nelson@owh.com

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